Belfast Telegraph

McCall staying focused despite admitting he is baffled by Saracens stars' awards night snub

 

By Jonathan Bradley

Saracens boss Mark McCall has admitted to some confusion after seeing his players blanked at the Aviva Premiership awards night on Wednesday.

The former Ulster centre will be leading his side into a home semi-final with Wasps tomorrow having finished the regular season second in the table.

But despite their lofty position, not a single player from the Barnet-based side found their way onto the Team of the Season or on the shortlists for Player or Young Player of the Year.

"The biggest I thought was Nick Isiekwe wasn't in the Young Player of the Year nominees, which is a surprise because he's played 20 Premiership matches and he's been exceptional," said McCall. "He's played in the second-row and back-row for us, he's played in the Champions Cup quarter-final, and I think he's played really consistently all season so it was a surprise not to see, for example, his name there. Why that's the case, I'm not sure.

"We scored 89 tries in 22 Premiership games, we won the Premiership in 2001 and we scored 35 tries in 22 games! So I think we're moving in the right direction from that point of view.

"We conceded the fewest tries as well. Our last four performances post-Leinster we said we wanted to be really consistent and I think we've got a real level of performance to go into the Wasps game in good form."

In the Premiership's other semi-final, also tomorrow, Exeter will be taking on Newcastle.

The Sandy Park outfit, who still boast Ulstermen Ian Whitten and Gareth Steenson in their number, will be expected to advance to another final despite the impressive form of Dean Richards' Falcons.

In the first of the weekend's semi-finals, Glasgow take on Scarlets at Scotstoun tonight (7.35pm kick-off) in the PRO14 and the Warriors can welcome Lions winger Tommy Seymour back into the fold.

Dave Rennie's men have been the pace-setters all season but have slowed up somewhat after a scorching start, with Seymour confident they can switch it back on come crunch time.

"Since the turn of the year we probably haven't done ourselves justice," admitted the Ulster Academy product. "If you look at a few games right at the tail end of that the last couple of losses weren't pleasing for us.

"You never want to concede points or go away with losses but Ulster and Edinburgh have been invaluable to us in teaching us about ourselves, you look at development all the time and they've certainly allowed us in the last few weeks to take a harder look at what we need to strengthen going into the game against Scarlets.

"We've definitely taken the rest, it's always key at this part of the season to fix a couple of things in the body.

"We've got some real quality training as well and we've been able to increase when necessary without worrying too much about the impact at the weekends."

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